It’s no stretch of the truth to say that Auckland punk rock act Miss June have had quite a year of it. Playing their first gigs outside of Australasia in Europe and the States, signing to Frenchkiss Records, home to the esteemed likes of Bloc Party and Diet Cig, and in September releasing their debut album, followed by a two-month global tour. Ben Lynch spoke to vocalist, songwriter and guitarist Annabel Liddell, just ahead of the delivery of their ‘Bad Luck Party’.
Armed with an authentic and rousing debut album, Miss June are primed to take on the world. Stepping back to listen again to their 2015 ‘Matriarchy’ EP, it’s easy to see why Miss June caught the attention of New Zealand’s punk and indie rock communities from the outset. Strung out over five tracks, it’s an articulate, angry, and at times anthemic introduction to the Auckland four-piece.
Subsequent singles Twitch, and more recently Best Girl, Enemies and Anomaly, have continued to feed the hype, showcasing an updated sound, and Annabel Liddell as a songwriter of the highest calibre. With the September release of their debut album, ‘Bad Luck Party’, and an international tour to follow, the band are certainly ending 2019 on a high.
That everything started kicking off seriously within the last 12 months isn’t, it turns out, all that curious. Liddell’s medical degree studies drew to a close earlier this year, meaning more focus could be dedicated to Miss June. As she explains though, the real driver was completing their debut album.
“It was mostly around the record. When we really felt like we had the record finished is when we started going, ‘What are we going to do with this?’ And the record deal we signed wasn’t necessarily the first deal that came across the table. Across the years we’ve had all sorts of deals and arrangements offered to us, but I think we always knew that we wanted the music to be ready before we jumped in headfirst and started making serious commitments. So, it was the end of last year / beginning of this year when we got a manager, got a label, got lawyers in every area code and all that sort of stuff”.
Having signed to active New York indie label Frenchkiss Records and their Australasian division, The Orchard, the ensuing singles, overseas gigs and album hype have drawn increasing attention. The signing itself was indicative of Miss June’s growing profile, Liddell describing how they had initially fielded interest from both parties quite separately.
“Frenchkiss got in touch with The Orchard and were like, ‘What do you think to this band Miss June?’, and The Orchard were like, ‘We’ve already sat down and had dinner with them, we’re trying to do it as well.’ It all sort of fell into place.”
Unsurprisingly, such a shift in pace and attention didn’t go unnoticed internally.
“I don’t think it ever feels real until you’re touring. When you’re on tour and you’re playing to hundreds of people halfway across the world, who you’d never think would know any of your songs, that’s when it sunk in for all of us. Our London show was the first show we’d played outside of Australasia, and after our first song I remember thinking, ‘Yep, we’ve got this!’”
As Miss June return to venues on the other side of the world later this year, enhanced confidence along with their new album’s rousing exhibition of indie rock, grunge and punk seems bound to result in that sort of experience becoming the norm. Recorded with Tom Healy at The Lab, ‘Bad Luck Party’ properly encompasses how much they’ve grown as an act, calling to mind bands ranging from The Pixies and Smashing Pumpkins to Priests. Compiled over the last three years, it witnesses the songwriting evolution from primarily Liddell to a collaborative strength.
“It’s pretty diverse in nature in terms of the songs, they’re quite different from one to the next. Definitely an album that really influenced not only my writing but the way we recorded it, was Weezer’s ‘Blue Album’. Just the way they did really great wall-of-sound stuff, but somehow really poppy, hooky melodies in there as well. That album kind of turned me on to pop music, because before that I was super punky, trying to do no wave-y Sonic Youth stuff. And then in terms of guitar tones, I’ve had a heavily influence from a lot of early NZ bands. Bailterspace has been a big one, The 3Ds…”
Liddell’s reference to the diversity in the songs on ‘Bad Luck Party’ go further than the guitar tones and sound. While a casual observer may assume Miss June could feasibly be labelled a political band, the themes behind their music are in reality more wide-ranging. Twitch, for example, recalls the first time Liddell operated on a live person at med school. Describing herself as “…very much a write-on-the-fly sort of person”, there is an organic touch to Miss June’s music, each song an insight into a specific episode in her busy life.
“I think the overarching theme of Miss June is being authentic. And so every song that I write is usually an authentic expression of how I feel about something. Sometimes that can be political or to do with social justice, but sometimes it’s like I did something really freaky in my degree and it freaked me out, and here’s a song about it. Or I’m really mad at this person and I just want to fucking scream about it in a big ‘fuck you’ in the form of music, because sometimes that’s the best way!”
For those hoping for something overtly political, Liddell is keen to point out one part of the album that is geared towards sending a specific message – the cover art.
“We had our album artwork designed by a local NZ artist called Erin Forsyth, and she is fantastic. S
he used to do a whole bunch of punk gig posters back in the day, and then she transitioned into doing ecological realist drawings of native birds and things, so I really wanted her to do the artwork.
“In terms of if the band is political, the album artwork is quite political. I really want it to send an environmental message. We’ve included in it a lot of native flora and fauna as well as birds that are extinct. Apart from the fantails, every creature on the album artwork is a native NZ species.”
Thoughtful and engaging in her opinions, Liddell embodies what it is that makes Miss June such an enticing act. Operating in a collaborative environment, the four-piece have become increasingly able to create music that is driven, impassioned and meticulous. As they continue to take their music on the road and ride the high of the last year, they will inevitably find more fans in more venues the world over singing their songs back at them. Just know that as they do, we’ll keep on singing them back here too.